Once The “Light Bulb” Moment Happens, EVs Will Prosper

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JUN 23 2018 BY EVANNEX 39

LIGHT BULBS AND ELECTRIC CARS: A TIME FOR CHANGE

When will that ‘light bulb moment’ happen with the car buying public? When will they pivot en masse from fossil fuel powered cars to electric vehicles? Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, owns two electric cars and says, “You just touch the accelerator and the car responds, whereas in a petrol car there is a lag of two tenths of a second… There is something magical about the responsiveness of it.” And it’s not just EV performance that’s so compelling.

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Matt Pressman. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

Tesla’s Elon Musk recently said, “If somebody said you’re gonna pour the liquid remains of dinosaurs into your vehicle and burn them in order to move from one place to another, releasing toxic fumes – and by the way, you better not have your car on in a closed room cause you’re gonna die – you’d say, ‘Why are we doing that?’ People drive basically parked in traffic with the air inlet [open] for their cabin right in front of the exhaust pipe of another car. It’s insane. You’re sucking up the toxic gas from the car in front of you.”

Tesla

Tesla Model S (Source: EVANNEX)

 

Finkel puts this all in historical perspective, he reminds us, “In the 1880s, the idea of electric street lights seemed absurd. If you had to light the streets, you did it with gas. Gas lamps were a fire hazard, smelled terrible and were barely an improvement on total darkness. Apart from that, they were fine… The problems were obvious, the potential was only visible to those with the courage to look.”

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Before electric lights started to illuminate the world, the dominant form of lighting was gas lamps (Image: Eaton)

Finkel admits that early on, “gas-lamp defenders were right: the first generation electric lights were undeniably more expensive. The technology was untested at scale. Above all, it was unfamiliar. How could you picture a street lit up with 50 times the brilliance of the only lamps you had ever known? How could you project ahead to the night-time economy – the world of cinemas and bars, of night-time shopping and safe city transport, made possible by cheap and abundant electric light?”

As EV battery costs plummet, there are similar parallels to be drawn with today’s auto industry. Finkel notes, “I think of the gas lamp when I hear arguments against electric cars… [and] let’s look at lifestyle and convenience. Imagine if you couldn’t charge your smartphone at home – if you had to schedule time in your day to ‘fill up’ at a public charger. You’d be outraged. So what’s so bad about a car you never have to take to a petrol station? It’s convenient!”

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3 (Image Credit: Tom Moloughney/InsideEVs)

Perhaps Finkel is onto something. Once cars like the Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt, and Nissan Leaf begin to hit the mainstream, the car buying public might (finally) envision a brighter future. As these cars move beyond the early adopters, electric cars will boast inherent advantages that will (in retrospect) seem obvious to the masses — zero dirty tailpipe emissions, addictive on-demand torque, and a “gas station” (ahem, charger) in your own garage. Soon, the dark days of dinosaur-juice cars could come to a close… it’s time to turn on the lights.

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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39 Comments on "Once The “Light Bulb” Moment Happens, EVs Will Prosper"

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Two things…

A) The cars have to get priced so that 100% of people buying new cars will buy one. A $30k auto is still well outside the range of many people. Even a 30k -7.5k auto is outside the range.

B) I just saw someone say that they nominally keep autos for 20 years.

It will get there, the same thing just happened with the transition to digital HD TV. It was only at the last moment that everyone just switched. And now we look back and wonder why we ever users the old stuff.

Mass adoption of EVs (i.e., the EV revolution) is unlikely without the assistance of Madison Avenue. The appeal of EVs thus far has been to reason. Emotion and fear trump reason. Google ‘torches of freedom’ for a lesson in mass adoption of change.

Sorry, I don’t Madison Avenue had anything to do with HD TVs, they were there at the start when the TV were expensive, but once the price fell below a certain point people bought they even as the ads for TV got less.

Same for the cars, once they become cheap enough people will buy them period.

Pricing is and always will be important. However, cars are not TVs – and the marketing is vastly different. Cars are an extension of an individual’s image/ego/persona – TVs are not.

Regarding pricing alone as the sales driver, I think the current Chrysler Pacifica is instructive. The PHEV version with 31 miles of AER is priced essentially the same (after tax credits) as the ICE version. It is a ‘no brainer’ to opt for the PHEV version if you are buying a Chrysler Pacifica. However, sales figures for 2018 indicate that the Chrysler Pacifica averages over 10k units in US monthly sales – but less than 500 (average) of these are the PHEV version. Why is the better PHEV – which is not ‘sold out’ in the US – selling at less than a 5% rate among Pacificas? Most shoppers won’t give the PHEV any consideration. Why? It is almost certainly due to lack of education and awareness. That is where advertising can play a role. There is a great deal of ignorance regarding EVs that needs to be addressed.

I’m sorry you’ve made two references and I’m not getting either of them. Are these references to the old movies, advertising in general or something else?

The technology adoption curve is an extremely well understood phenomenon, and the book Crossing the Chasm addresses the nuances of it really well.

There won’t be a light bulb moment or tipping point or whatever you want to call it. There will be a slow realization, coupled with lower battery costs, that leads to increasing EV adoption. As I’ve argued many times here before, a lot of what’s stopping people form buying EVs now is a mix of psychology — they’re comfortable with fossil fuel vehicles and they fear change — and plain old ignorance — they STILL think EVs are underpowered toys that can’t drive at highway speeds or in snow and ice, or will cost more to recharge than would buying gasoline for a roughly equivalent vehicle. I’m constantly trying to enlighten people about EVs, and I run into these misperceptions constantly. I think it’s critical for those of us who have seen the value of EVs to help educate the general public. One of the best ways to impress them is to take a person for a ride and asking them to listen closely and then saying nothing for a couple of minutes. People are shocked by how quiet a “real car” can be. I usually then point out you don’t even have the subtle sound and lurch of an… Read more »

And yet your description sounds almost exactly like the light bulb story from above 😉

Yup, I don’t think Lou Grinzo read the story closely. As the story pointed out, the first generation of light bulbs were not really competitive with gas lamps. They were expensive, they were only 25 watt bulbs, and you had to pay a fortune to get your house hooked up to the early direct-current electrical grid, even if you were close enough to a DC generating station to make that practical.

It was only later improvements, such as alternating current (thank you, Nikola Tesla!), brighter lights, and lower costs which made electric lighting ubiquitous.

“Imagine if you couldn’t charge your smartphone at home – if you had to schedule time in your day to ‘fill up’ at a public charger. You’d be outraged. So what’s so bad about a car you never have to take to a petrol station? It’s convenient!” This is the light bulb moment. And it’s going to be tough sledding to get there. The concept of going some specific place to get fuel for a vehicle is so ingrained in the collective automotive psyche that it’s going to take a lot of marketing to turn that tanker around. Another aspect of this is that the public charging infrastructure is incomplete. And as I say pretty much anytime I post, I believe that a crucial element: DCFC opportunity charging, is completely missing. Cost and convenience all tie together at the nexus of battery size and charging availability. One is that everyone is not going to be able to charge at home or work. Two is to mitigate having to publicly charge on a daily basis, battery sizes are going to be huge. Both in the current infrastructure will lead to an attempt to model the current gas station model where someone… Read more »

5 minutes every other week is not really a problem.

It is more convenient than plugging in every day.

Not going to the gas station is not a game changer in any way.

I respectfully disagree. This is from someone who has 3 ICE vechicles in the household in addition to a BEV. It’s never 5 minutes because it’s often a specific trip to go get gas. It’s never 5 minutes because of waiting in line to charge. Plugging in my carport is literally a 10 second operation I do while walking to get the mail, which takes longer than plugging in. And rarely is it every other week.

You would not believe how much like night and day it is until you compare them side by side.

ga2500ev

Tell that to my wife. She has been driving my prior car – a Leaf – for 3 years. She wants something bigger. When I tell her the PHEV ranges, she cringes at having to go to a gas station. She is to frugal to drive an X so she deals. All to avoid a gas station trip once a month or less.

Technically, the 2018 Leaf is ever so slightly bigger 🙂

WIth an EV like the Model 3 you don’t plug in necessarily every day. With 310 miles of range you would plug in every 3 days or so and even then if your commute is like the national average of 30 miles daily you wouldn’t technically need to plug in at home but once a week.

5-10 seconds of plugging in a week at home vs. 5-10 minutes of pumping gas every other week is much more convenient.

Lol. Completely disagree. Plugging in and out takes 8 seconds per day. X7 is 56 seconds per week, so less than two minutes every two weeks. Also no hassle of driving to the gas station, or going out of your way to find gas that is 5 cents cheaper.

What about all those people waiting in line at Costco every Saturday morning? Certainly takes them more than 5 minutes.

[Going to the gas station] “…is more convenient than plugging in every day.”

Those who actually own BEVs report otherwise, from personal experience. Someday you’ll almost certainly experience that for yourself, if you don’t pass away within the next few years.

And it’s not just the 5 minutes it takes to fill up; it’s the time and gasoline you waste driving to and from the station. Far more convenient to spend 15-30 seconds plugging the car in at night and unplugging in the morning.

We have two EVs in my family and have been driving electric for years. My mom has another one, my dad is waiting for “his” Model 3. Brother in law drives a plug-in hybrid (but he was a hard but to crack to abandon diesels). My sister drives the Niro hybrid and is annoyed she just missed the plug-in version by a few months.
And another number of people in the social circles driving electric of different kinds.

Who drives to a gas station to fill it up? Filling up is something you do when you drive by a station.
Also waiting in line to fill up? I’ve never encountered a situation like that even once in my life. Even so it would be just a minute or two until a car would move.

Anyway, gas stations is not a big factor. The biggest factor about it the negative aspect of not having the luxury of a fast fill-up on those rare long trips.

For me the tipping point was a big enough battery. The shortest milage for my daily commute is 54 miles. It’s often longer than that. We bought a volt first to replace a tdi and I found it was a great car until the battery ran out which was pretty quickly. It could be less than 30 miles, which didn’t come close to covering my commute even though it had a rated range of mid 50 miles. I quickly realized that on a cold winter day I might need 25-30kwh to make my simple daily drive. Most of the ev’s out at that time other than a tesla simply didn’t have enough battery. Once the bolt came out that changed. Now a year later and 23k miles I have learned a lot. First battery needs to be bigger for any reasonable range day trip in winter. range is less than 150 miles at highway speeds in the cold. Second the last 10kwh is not really usable. So the effective size of the battery is really about 50kwh. Third dcfc while faster than l2 is slow. Long distance travel needs 3-5C charge rates. 1C or less won’t cut it. Fourth 3… Read more »

Nice points. Just a couple of comments.

1. Long distance travel charge rates are going to be problematic. Such high charging rates tend to damage the battery. Though with a Bolt, both the charge rate, and the taper steps seem to both be extremely conservative. Chevy had a 2.4C charge up to 80% on the SparkEV. I wonder why they didn’t transfer that rate to the Bolt?

2. L2 chargers serve the purpose of charging in long term dwell situations. They really exist only for home/work charging where the car is going to be parked 8 hours or more. Even worse AC charging of all types is dependent on the internal charger of the car, which is sized to the battery of the car, and not the power of the EVSE. Both of these reasons are why I’m campaigning for the deployment of medium power DCFC as the basis for the public non-travel charging infrastructure. A 25 kW DCFC at the grocery store is much more useful than a 6.6 kW L2 in that spot.

So we have a ways to go. I’d be interested in hearing about a Bolt charge from 50% SOC on a 20-25 kW DCFC charger.

ga2500ev

“Chevy had a 2.4C charge up to 80% on the SparkEV. I wonder why they didn’t transfer that rate to the Bolt” Spark’s battery used different chemistry than the Bolt. I’m not an expert, but that could affect the maximum safe charging rate.

I understand why things are the way they are, i.e. 1c charge rates. Even on the hobby side we only recently moved to 3-5c charging. It does shorten the battery life. Not an issue on a $40 battery, but a big deal on a $10k battery. Same goes for fast charging in the cold. I took my Bolt to the airport in February, had to charge to make the round trip of 160 miles. It was single digits and the 50kw charger started at less than 20, ramping to 24kw as the pack warmed up. Still took almost an hour to get enough charge (1/2) to get the 60 miles home. It’s uphill (2000ft gain) at highway speeds, so about 2m/kWh. For me the slow charging makes travel that is more than a single charge a no go. Just takes too long. My milage was only 22k this year. Partially because I don’t use the bolt for trips. It’s either the volt or the e-350. All of these limitations I experience may not effect people in warm urban environments, but will need to be solved for 100% adoption on ev’s. I do enjoy the advantages of the ev for daily… Read more »

22k per year seems like a lot to me. Isn’t 15,000 about average?

14,000-15,000 miles per year is the average for American drivers, yes. Obviously some people drive a lot more or a lot less than the average.

The Tesla Model 3 LR has much more range than the Chevy Bolt though. The Chevy Bolt has 238 miles per full charge on the EPA measurement. The Tesla Model 3 has 310 miles. So really you just need a Tesla Model 3.

I’ll posit that many (probably most) people *do* care about “green” to *some* extent — they just care about other things more… It’s not a good idea to tout *only* the “green” aspect; but not touting it at all is likely not a good idea either.

Three-phase AC level 2 chargers go up to 22 kW though, which seems perfectly fine for opportunity charging… As for why Chevy didn’t “transfer” the C-rate from the Spark, the most fundamental answer is that there is always a trade-off between C-rate and capacity, i.e. at the same price/weight/size, a faster-charging battery will have a smaller range per charge. Is say a 15 minute charge every 1 1/2 hours driving time generally preferable to say a 35 minute charge every 2 1/2 hours? Finding the sweet spot is tricky. More specifically in this case, the Spark possibly used re-purposed PHEV battery cells, which are optimised for higher C-rates, since they have to provide decent power from a fairly small battery; while the cells in the Bolt are most likely optimised for maximal capacity in pure EV use. Other considerations might be that Chevy opted for maximal range per charge over long trip feasibility, since it’s easier to advertise. (And arguably the battery just isn’t large enough for comfortable trips anyway, regardless of the trade-off chosen…) It might also have been informed by the fact that at the time they designed the Bolt, they didn’t expect >50 kW public charging stations… Read more »

In 10 years no one will want a gas car, by then it will be obvious that they are inferior. EVs are better, cheaper(life cycle) and last longer, not to mention cleaner. Things that are not obvious now will be by then. An example; there is no performance penalty, a car with a powerful electric drive train can be just as efficient as a weak one. The one advantage gas has is recharge time, offset by the ability to recharge at home overnight. Battery costs coming down is really just extra advantage, EVs are already superior.

“…a car with a powerful electric drive train can be just as efficient as a weak one.”

Well, not really. A Tesla Model 3 and a Hyundai Ioniq Electric are both far more energy-efficient than a similarly sized gasmobile, but the seriously underpowered “weak sister” Ioniq gets significantly better miles per kWh than the higher performance TM3.

But I gave a “Thumbs up” to your post because you were right on target with your other comments! 🙂

The Ioniq is a smaller and much lighter car; and yet it only gets better mileage in city driving…

It’s true that everything else being equal, a higher powered EV (e.g. P100D vs. 100D) gets *slightly* lower mileage (mostly due to weight AIUI); but the penalty is relatively tiny — unlike with combustion engine cars, where larger engines are *significantly* less efficient.

I hope you are right but suspect it will take considerably longer than 10 years unless we have something like an oil price / supply shock event similar to the oil shocks in the 1970’s. A neocon driven war with Iran might be the pivotal event. Or a revolution in Saudi Arabia. There are several scenarios out there that could cause oil supply disruptions and significant price spikes.

Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel says Once cars like the Tesla Model 3, Chevy Bolt, and Nissan Leaf begin to hit the mainstream.
Yet none of the three EV’s mentioned are currently for sale in Australia.

Yeah, I found that remark rather ironic. There is no way the Leaf or the Bolt EV will ever be “mainstream”, and even the TM3 is rather overpriced for a truly “affordable” car.

For EVs to actually go mainstream, the price needs to come down to less than $30k.

I’m pretty sure it’s just a matter of time until the Leaf becomes mainstream. It certainly is in Norway.

Excellent points. Only because we have done this poor habit for so long do we continue. The other is price. We have subsidized OIL for 100 years and continue to do it. The real price is $8-12 a gallon just look at Canada and Europe. Some even tax oil for the pollution is causes. But the US still helps big OIL. George Bush , Dick Chaney ,Condalisa Rice and others have worked in and continue in OIL companies. With people like that in charge we will never change.

EVs are still a long way from offering the utility of a similarly priced gasoline powered vehicle. This is especially so in the lower part of the price range (ie excluding all currently available Teslas). This problem will only get worse as the federal tax credits (and other rebates) phase out unless manufacturers are able to drastically cut costs. By far the best utility value today for plug ins is the PHEV if you can charge it at home off peak. You get most of the EV benefits for local use and none of the EV deficits for long range use. I think I will probably buy a P Prime when my C-max energi (an admittedly compromised vehicle but with a real cheap lease) comes off lease. Net of incentives (CA and Fed.) and dealer discount I expect to pay $20 – $22k plus tax for the “base” model which includes Toyota’s active safety systems. I can expect it to be reliable, durable, have good resale value, be low in CO2 emissions and “conventional” pollution, and have no use limitations compared to any similar gasoline only powered car. This is where the rational low environmental impact (my interest in all… Read more »

Half a loaf is better than none, as they say, but with the dwarfish ~25 mile EV range of the Prius Prime or the C-Max, it’s more like a quarter of a loaf.

I’m very glad to see Honda sell the Clarity PHEV with a 47 mile EPA electric range. Hopefully other auto makers will follow suit and start making PHEVs with an EV range closer to the industry-leading Volt.

I have had my Tesla model 3 for one month and let dozens of my friends and family drive it and ride in it. Everyone is so impressed with the look, feel and handling. They are blown away like I am. It’s still a bit pricey for many people, but as soon as people see how great these cars are, and the price becomes more affordable, I think we will see EV’s everywhere! A big change will happen over the next 3-5 years.

I look for US EV sales to increase by 40 percent per year or ~ double every two years.
2017-200,000
2019-400,000
2021-800,000
2023-1,600,000
That would be 10 percent of the total car/light truck market. I wish it were higher, but people do not like to change. After 2023, look out.

When EV’s are competitive with, say, a Camry or RAV4 in performance (already there), space, range, refill time (solid state batts?), refill opportunities, and PRICE without incentives, then we’ll be at the tipping point. For cars.

Then there’s pickups in the USA…… The traditional customer in that segment is conservative. Gonna’ be a while.